WESTMINSTER, Colo. (KDVR) — Six months after a massive house explosion in Westminster killed a man and left two neighboring homes uninhabitable, cleanup work has finally begun.

Duane Doyle, 51, was killed in a propane tank explosion that flatted the home he had been illegally occupying for years after the utilities were disconnected following a house fire in April of 2019.

Workers in hazmat suits must enter and exit through a plastic tent each day they work at 7731 N. Knox Court because the house explosion spread asbestos all over the property.

“These guys working back here, they’re my heroes right now,” Crissa Doeppke said, who hasn’t been able to live in her home next door because of collateral damage from the explosion.

“It hurts a little to know how long that it’s taken to get to this point,” Doeppke said, who met the Problem Solvers at the explosion site on Aug. 25, one day after the cleanup work began.

In late July, the city of Westminster finally approved up to $400,000 from the city’s general fund to pay for the cleanup.

D & K Works was awarded a $310,000 contract to safely remove the asbestos and house debris.

“Asbestos is tricky because there are fibers. Very small fibers when they’re in the air, that’s when they’re dangerous,” Mauricio Lopez, the owner of D & K Works said.

He told the Problem Solvers it’ll take his crew two to three months to decontaminate the property and haul all the trash away.

“The process to get set up is very delicate because we really want to prevent fibers to go outside of the containment,” Lopez said.

It was city councilman Bruce Baker who prodded his fellow councilmembers to act.

“Sometimes government, even though it’s very, very powerful, is timid,” Baker said, who pushed the full city council to fund the cleanup when it became clear the property owner, the lender and even the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (which had a financial interest in the property) had no intention of helping pay to clean up the site.

A city of Westminster agenda memorandum dated Aug. 15 states, “The current owner has shown no good-faith efforts to clean up the property. The current owner does not appear to have the financial or insurance assets to address the work that is necessary at the property. Based on past violations and active cases at this property, Staff does not believe the current owner has the ability to address a clean-up of this magnitude.”

The same memorandum obtained by the Problem Solvers showed that both the reverse mortgage company and H.U.D. relinquished their financial stakes in the property and simply walked away from the mess, forcing the city to finally act six months later.

“It was a unanimous vote and we found the money and boom, it happened,” Baker said, who was then asked if FOX31 news coverage might’ve helped spur the council, “Oh Absolutely!” Baker replied.

Meantime, Doeppke is still dealing with her insurance company to fund repairs to her house. She hopes in six months she may be able to move back into a home she lost through no fault of her own.

“I feel like I’ve been dismissed in a lot of situations because they just go, oh, your insurance company or get a lawyer. There are no lawyers who will help,” Doeppke said.

That’s because there is one obvious person or entity for Doeppke to sue and her insurance coverage won’t cover all of her damage, meaning she may have to spend thousands of dollars out of pocket to repair her house.

A city spokesman told the Problem Solvers that the city of Westminster intends to place a lien on 7731 N. Knox Court in hopes of recouping some of the money it spent to clean the property if it ever sells at auction.

So far the auction to sell would be an empty loss that has been postponed at least eight times. It’s now set for Oct. 27.